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Kashmir: Winter of Hope?
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
As winter cut off the land route to the Kashmir Valley from rest of the country; there was also large number of power breakdowns. This break possibly gave time to the people of Kashmir some time for introspection. Some change is evident in the attitude of the separatist leadership as well, with the moderates now turning to development issues to an extent. Is this the beginning of reconciliation with New Delhi, it may be too early to tell but some indications are ominous.
Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani expressed unhappiness over Pakistan’s Kashmir policy calling it out of sync with the aspirations and sentiments of Kashmiris. Ayaz Akbar, spokesman for Mr. Geelani was quoted by Greater Kashmir thus, “The present policy of Pakistan is not in consonance with the sentiments and aspirations of Kashmiris and it should be reviewed.” The separatists are also not in favor of grant of Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to India by Pakistan. The leadership is unhappy with Pakistan for not raising human rights violations at the international level even though a number of youth have been killed in disturbances related to stone throwing and other agitations in the past three years. At the same time Mr. Geelani seems to be well aware of the weak position of Pakistan internally and externally and thus as per his spokesperson he has advised that country to get the house in order. “During the meeting Geelani expressed concern over the prevailing situation in Pakistan and told the envoy that they should resolve internal issues through reconciliation,” Akbar said.
That the separatists have made a wrong call with reference to Pakistan is evident as their support from across the border has dried up with internal turbulence resulting in a feral situation in that country over the past few years. Ironically frustration with Pakistan is also evident not just due to the lip service that the separatists feel that Islamabad has given to the issue but also due to the peace process that has taken off in 2011 between India and Pakistan. While what the Pak envoy told the Kashmiri separatist leader is not clear but there is enough evidence that there appears to be disillusionment in Kashmiri separatists over credibility of the Pakistani regime and their ability to support Kashmir due to internal challenges as well as external disillusionment with Islamabad. Whether the separatists themselves adopt a more pragmatic approach and give up their anti-India stance remains to be seen. However this opening could well be exploited to bring about a permanent shift in the stance of the separatists to shun support and minions from across the border.
There is also a need for action on the Interlocutor’s report that has been prepared after some painstaking effort for almost a year by three respected nominees of the government led by journalist Dileep Padgaonkar which had resulted in a comprehensive set of recommendations after discussion with all stakeholders. The interlocutors had submitted their Report in time and this is under consideration for some time by the government for almost four months. It is apparent that the government has not been able to work out how the Report can be implemented and thus the value of the same may go down in case there is no action taken over a period. It will also give an impression that the government takes action only when faced with an impending crisis or a mass agitation. The main challenge may be cooperation by the Separatists who had boycotted interaction with the Interlocutors. A time bound plan would have to be worked out to debate and discuss the report and take action as agreed upon to avoid return of discontent in the Valley.
Resistance by the Army to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been much in the news through 2011. The Army Chief General V K Singh elaborated on why the Army is opposed to even partial withdrawal of AFSPA from parts of Kashmir in an interview to Sainik Samachar a fortnightly published by the Ministry of Defence thus, “J&K has been affected by a Pakistan-sponsored proxy war since the last two decades. Though the quantum of violence has decreased, the terror infrastructure in Pakistan/POK remains intact. The support of Pakistan establishment in aiding and abetting the terrorists continues unabated. The security forces are combating heavily armed and trained terrorists. The operational flexibility of the troops will be severely restricted and the efforts to further stabilize and consolidate the situation in J&K will receive a setback”. Hopefully there would be a turn of events in this front as well post winter for the better so that the long vexatious issue is amicably resolved. Thus we end with some hope for Jammu and Kashmir in 2012?
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